Opinion

The two parties don’t have to disagree on everything

We now have a Democratic president and a Republican Congress. It is far from clear whether the political parties will be able to find a path to work together, or whether the next two years will bring stagnation and gridlock.

We believe there is such a path. The alternative is troubling because our competitors around the globe are moving forward with the changes needed to stay competitive in the 21st century. So the two of us, along with our colleagues in Washington state and across the country, are working to move forward on an agenda on which we can find common ground.

Too many people are working hard but feeling let down by an economy that still has much room for improvement. Together, we must focus on boosting American businesses and workers in order to strengthen the growth of our economy.

In the 21st century, it’s more important than ever that you have the ability to get your product from Point A to Point B. That’s true whether you are shipping a plane wing, apples or computer chips.

Unfortunately, our infrastructure is crumbling. We saw the impacts in real time when an Interstate 5 bridge collapsed into the Skagit River. Incidents like that and the condition of our highways, among other areas, led the American Society of Civil Engineers to give our state a middling C on its 2013 report card. In a state that has 75 public deep-water ports, 139 airports, more than 7,000 miles of highways and 3,600 miles of railways, inadequate infrastructure hurts job growth.

Our nation needs to do better. Beginning next year, it’s time for us to pass a long-term transportation bill. This will require addressing the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.

A long-term transportation bill will provide stability for investments in capital projects on our rails, roads and bridges. It will also help contractors and local governments plan ahead to take care of problem spots on our transportation grid.

However, small businesses don’t just need smooth roads to help power their growth. Increasingly, they are seeing opportunities to sell products to customers overseas.

Washington is one of the most trade-dependent states in the nation, largely due to the growing demand for Washington products around the globe. According to the Washington Council on International Trade, our exports per capita are double the average of the entire nation.

Many of our state's exporters – both large and small – have relied on the Export-Import Bank. In fact, since 2007, the bank has supported more than 215 businesses across the state, including 149 small businesses. This translates into supporting an estimated $128 billion in exports and highlights the important role of the bank in expanding the reach of our businesses, farmers and workers.

Both Democrats and Republicans believe this is a vital tool that helps American businesses be competitive. But its charter is set to expire next summer. We believe a long-term extension for the bank is a key part of expanding and creating good-paying jobs and opportunities for American workers.

Fixing these bipartisan problems will build up goodwill between the two parties for much-needed fixes to bigger challenges like tax reform. To be competitive, we need a tax code that helps businesses grow and encourages investment in the United States.

If Democrats and Republicans work together where they can find common ground, you’ll see a Washington, D.C., more focused on progress than partisanship and a Congress focused on creating opportunities for businesses and workers to thrive. We think that’s a good goal to set for 2015.

Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, represent Washington’s 6th and 8th congressional districts in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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